Designing Buildings That Serve Beyond Their Original Intent: Future Use Architecture
“Architecture should be rooted in the past, and yet be part of our own time and forward looking.”
A building in Florence, Italy, originally an open-air grain market, was converted into a church after being closed up. It also had offices above it. Orsanmichele, as the building is known, is currently a museum. David Fannon, Michelle Laboy, and Peter Wiederspahn, three faculty members at Northeastern University‘s School of Architecture, talk about “future-use architecture,” the practice of designing buildings that can house any number of uses beyond their original intent.
Just as Orsanmichele was originally intended to house an open-air market but could be fairly easily converted into a church, future-use architecture anticipates the unexpected ways buildings might be used, well, in the future. This type of forward-looking consideration in architecture can change the way architects think about their practice. It enables designers to deliver beyond the present requirement of the building and expand its relevance over a complete life cycle of change. It’s designing for more than one end user.
But what makes these buildings withstand the test of time? What makes them flexible for use over eventual change? They’ve come up with three main themes:
Strength, location value and cultural value. To be used for a sustained time a building needs to stand strong and not crumble and be situated in an area with suitable context and adaptable energy efficient systems. And most essentially, it should be worth preserving through the years.
“Our goal is to affect the practice of architecture,” Wiederspahn said, “We believe these things that put buildings in touch with time ultimately create better buildings. If we’re going to make buildings today, we owe it to the people who are going to be in them 100 years from now to make the best buildings we can.”